By Joe Leogue
Inspectors from the workplace health and safety watchdog will this week visit construction sites across the country as part of a crackdown on exposure to dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) will be calling to sites to ensure workers are not being exposed to silica dust, asbestos, and other chemical products used in construction, while also gathering information on substances being used on sites such as epoxy resins, solvent-based paints, and foams.
The inspections are part of Construction Safety Week 2018, an initiative of the Construction Safety Partnership Advisory Committee, whose members include the HSA, CIF, trade unions, and other industry stakeholders.
HSA senior construction inspector Michael McDonagh said the campaign aims to ensure employers are aware that preventing work-related illness is as important as preventing accidents.
“Exposure to hazardous substances in construction, usually through inhalation or skin contact, can lead to a variety of negative health implications from minor irritation to cancer,” he said.
“Very often symptoms are not immediately obvious so it is important that employers are aware of their responsibilities in relation to their employee’s health. Prevention is the best strategy so it is essential that there is an awareness of the dangers and that appropriate control measures are put in place.
“These include using less harmful materials, local exhaust ventilation, using water to suppress dusts, and providing suitable respiratory protection equipment,” he said.
Exposure to silica dust can occur anywhere that concrete, stone, or sand-based materials are being used; inhalation can cause lung damage. The use of asbestos in buildings has been banned since 2000; if inhaled it can cause asbestosis, lung cancer, or mesothelioma.